Ryan Alexander served as president of Taxpayers for Common Sense from 2006 through 2019, after serving on the board for more than seven years. She has testified on Congress on a wide range of topics relating to federal spending, subsidies, and fiscal policy, and her comments have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNN, Fox News, CBS News, ABC News, and NPR, among other outlets.
Over the past two decades, Ryan has served as a litigating attorney, funder, small business owner, and nonprofit executive. Ryan co-founded Appalachian Mountain Advocates, which she continues to chair, and sits on the boards of directors of the Fund for Constitutional Government, Project on Government Oversight, and R Street Institute.
Ryan received a B.A. with honors from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, a law degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and was awarded a National Association for Public Interest Law Equal Justice Fellowship.
Gary D. Bass became the Executive Director of the Bauman Foundation in July, 2011. In 1983, he founded OMB Watch, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization promoting greater government accountability and transparency and increased citizen participation in public policy decisions, and directed it until moving to the Bauman Foundation. In 2016, OMB Watch folded into the Project On Government Oversight, another national nonprofit organization.
An expert on federal budgetary, program management, regulatory and information policy issues, Gary has published extensively, testified before Congress, appeared on national television and presented to groups across the country. Gary has led many advocacy campaigns—often in coalition with local, state and national groups—in pursuit of a government that promotes social justice and responds to community needs. He led OMB Watch and broad coalitions in successfully stopping proposals that would have undermined government’s role is serving people in need: a “no money, no mandates” measure that would have resulted in state and local governments being exempted from complying with federal laws; a constitutional amendment to balance the U.S. budget that would have seriously harmed human service delivery; a variety of regulatory provisions that would have undermined health, safety and environmental protections; proposals to eliminate the estate tax on wealthy individuals; and various efforts to silence the advocacy voice of charities across the country.
He has been a strong advocate for strengthening government transparency to empower citizens and community groups to challenge unchecked institutional power. In 1989, with support from the Bauman Foundation, Gary created RTK NET, (the Right-to-Know Network), a searchable website that provides information about toxic chemicals being released to the air, water, and land. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he spoke out against the erosion of the public’s right to know and helped form a powerful coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, that includes journalists and advocates who advocate for more democracy and less secrecy. In 2006, he successfully championed passage of a law, co-sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama, which required a searchable website of government spending. Uncertain that the bill would become law, OMB Watch built FedSpending.org, which ultimately became USAspending.gov, the website required by the law. He also led a “transpartisan” effort to present recommendations to the incoming Obama administration for improving government openness, which senior White House aides called a “blueprint” for the Obama administration.
At the Bauman Foundation, he remains active, both as a grantmaker and advocate, in efforts to stop the assault on federal regulations, promote government transparency to strengthen accountability, address economic inequality, and encourage civic participation for a stronger democracy. Looking to 2020, he has placed a priority on a full and accurate census and redistricting reforms.
He has received numerous awards, including being selected as one of the NonProfit Times Power and Influence Top 50 11 times, between 1999-2008 and again in 2010; and in 2011 he received the Chairperson’s Award from the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities for his leadership and dedication in national public policy. He has been inducted into the FOIA Hall of Fame and in 2014, he was named to the Fed 100, a group of people who have significantly influenced government operations.
In addition to his role at the Bauman Foundation, Gary is an affiliated professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy where he teaches about nonprofit advocacy and social change. He has served on numerous boards and has been an advisor to many organizations. He is currently on the boards of The Arc, Economic Policy Institute, and OpenTheGovernment.org, and is a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and a fellow with the National Academy of Public Administration.
Prior to founding OMB Watch, Gary was co-director of the Human Services Information Center with Jule Sugarman, the “father” of Head Start; director of liaison for the International Year of Disabled Persons; worked as a consultant on several projects in special education and the mental health of children and youth, most notably the preparation of the first annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), now called the Individuals with Disability Education Act; and served as special assistant to former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Wilbur Cohen, then chair of the Michigan Governor’s Task Force on the Investigation and Prevention of Abuse in Residential Institutions.
Gary received a combined doctorate in psychology and education from the University of Michigan, along with the University’s highest award for graduate student teaching and several awards for academic excellence.
Thomas S. Blanton is Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive won U.S. journalism’s George Polk Award in April 2000 for “piercing self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in search for the truth, and informing us all.” The Los Angeles Times (16 January 2001) described the Archive as “the world’s largest nongovernmental library of declassified documents.” Blanton served as the Archive’s first Director of Planning & Research beginning in 1986, became Deputy Director in 1989, and Executive Director in 1992. He filed his first Freedom of Information Act request in 1976 as a weekly newspaper reporter in Minnesota; and among many hundreds subsequently, he filed the FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit (with Public Citizen Litigation Group) that forced the release of Oliver North’s Iran-contra diaries in 1990.
His books include Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989 (Budapest: CEU Press, 2010), co-authored with Svetlana Savranskaya and Vladislav Zubok, which won the Arthur S. Link-Warren F. Kuehl Prize for Documentary Editing of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. His book White House E-Mail: The Top Secret Computer Messages the Reagan-Bush White House Tried to Destroy (New York: The New Press, 1995, 254 pp. + computer disk), was described by The New York Times as “a stream of insights into past American policy, spiced with depictions of White House officials in poses they would never adopt for a formal portrait.” He co-authored The Chronology (New York: Warner Books, 1987, 687 pp.) on the Iran-contra affair, and served as a contributing author to three editions of the ACLU’s authoritative guide, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws, and to the Brookings Institution study Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 1998, 680 pp.). His latest book is The Last Superpower Summits: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Bush: The Conversations that Ended the Cold War (Budapest: CEU Press, 2016), also with Svetlana Savranskaya. His articles have appeared in The International Herald-Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Slate, the Wilson Quarterly, and many other publications.
A graduate of Harvard University, where he was an editor of the independent university daily newspaper The Harvard Crimson, he won Harvard’s 1979 Newcomen Prize in history. He also received the 1996 American Library Association James Madison Award Citation for “defending the public’s right to know.” He is a founding editorial board member of freedominfo.org, the virtual network of international freedom of information advocates; and serves on the editorial board of H-DIPLO, the diplomatic history electronic bulletin board, among other professional activities.
Danielle Brian is the Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). Under her leadership, the organization has grown from two employees and a budget in the thousands of dollars in 1993 to an organization with over forty staff and a budget of six million.
POGO is a nonpartisan independent government watchdog whose investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, and ethical federal government.
Danielle and her staff frequently testify before Congress, and have done so eighteen times since 2015.
In the past decade, POGO’s work has resulted in:
POGO’s investigative work under her stewardship has received journalism awards such as the Sigma Delta Chi award, the Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Journalism Award, the Dateline Award, and others. POGO has received the highest reviews for organizational and financial performance from the three largest charity evaluators in the country: Charity Navigator, Better Business Bureau, and Greatnonprofits.org.
Danielle is a member of the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, has been ranked three times by Ethisphere magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in business ethics, and received the Smith College Medal. Danielle received her Bachelor of Arts in Government from Smith College, and her Master’s Degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Nick is a Technology and Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Innovation and the managing director of Resilient Democracy, a civic engagement initiative dedicated to a more equitable and resilient democracy through promoting innovative and inclusive strategies, practices and technology. Nick is keenly interested in furthering initiatives that close the equity gap in civic technology and hold the promise of transformative civic engagement to increase voter turnout, scale equitable best practices and ultimately achieving a civil society that is positively impacted by the realities of the digital age. Core questions driving his work include how do we close the equity gap in civic tech and promote more inclusive civic engagement that increases turnout at the polls while simultaneously improving the lives of low propensity voters too often excluded from our democracy.
Lara Flint is Director of the Governance Program at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on principled leadership and effective governance, Lara leads the Governance Program, which works to bolster Congress’ capacity to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our system of checks and balances, and foster more constructive political engagement. Current grantees of the Governance Program include Congressional Management Foundation, Project On Government Oversight, R Street Institute, and Issue One.
Lara is a skilled advocate with more than 15 years of legal, public policy and government experience, including a decade on Capitol Hill. She brings experience in long-term congressional oversight and the ability to develop and maintain bipartisan coalitions across government, civil society, industry, and other stakeholders. Most recently she served as chief counsel for national security to then-Chairman Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she led the committee’s work on national security, privacy, and technology, and was instrumental to enactment of the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 — the first major surveillance reform legislation in decades. Previously, Lara served as senior counsel on the Judiciary Committee to Senator Russ Feingold. Her expertise included national security, privacy, immigration, and criminal justice.
Between her Senate positions, Lara joined the State Department Office of the Legal Adviser, where she advised senior State Department officials on cutting-edge counterterrorism, law of war, and use of force issues. In that role she also provided international law expertise to counterparts in the White House, Defense Department, Justice Department, and Intelligence Community. Prior to her government service, Lara worked on policy at the intersection of technology and national security at the Center for Democracy & Technology. She also conducted a broad range of litigation at the law firm of Jenner & Block, and clerked for The Honorable Milton I. Shadur of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Lara is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and Harvard Law School.
Virginia Kase Solomón has spent the past 25 years of her career fighting for social justice and civil rights. As CEO of the League of Women Voters, Virginia builds upon her vision of an inclusive democracy where every person in America has the ability and opportunity to participate and advocate for issues that matter to them. Since 2018, she has led the 100-year-old organization through a period of rapid transformation and growth focused on building power by engaging in advocacy, legislation, expanded litigation, and organizing efforts to ensure voting rights for all.Prior to joining LWV she served as COO of CASA, an organization at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement, representing nearly 100,000 members. In that leadership role, Virginia managed the strategic growth, direction, and operations of the organization and served as a key thought leader on its politics and policy team.
Kevin Kosar is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies the US Congress, congressional oversight, the administrative state, American politics, and the US Postal Service.
Before joining AEI, Kevin was at the R Street Institute, where he served as vice president of policy, vice president of research partnerships, and senior fellow and director of the Governance Project. He also co-founded and still codirects the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group (LegBranch.org). The project is dedicated to assessing Congress’ capacity to perform its constitutional duties and collaborating on ideas to strengthen the legislative branch. Earlier in his career, he was a lecturer in policy and public administration at New York University and Metropolitan College of New York. Kevin’s books include Congress Overwhelmed: The Decline in Congressional Capacity and Prospects for Reform” (University of Chicago Press, 2020); “Unleashing Opportunity: Policy Reforms for an Accountable Administrative State” (National Affairs, 2017); “Moonshine: A Global History” (Reaktion Books, 2017); “Ronald Reagan and Education Policy” (2011); “Whiskey: A Global History” (Reaktion Books, 2010); “Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards” (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005); and “Bridging the Gap: Higher Education and Career-Centered Welfare Reform” (National Urban League/Metropolitan College of New York, 2003).
He has been a Presidential Management Fellow and won the Academy of Wine Communications’ wine writer award. Kevin received his doctorate in politics from New York University and his bachelor’s from Ohio State University.
Conrad Martin serves as the Executive Director of the Fund for Constitutional Government. Additionally, Mr. Martin is the Executive Director of the Stewart R. Mott Foundation and chairs the Board of Directors of HALT — Americans for Legal Reform. Mr. Martin also serves on the boards of the Center for International Policy, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the American Progressive Caucus Foundation. Mr. Martin served in the Peace Corps from 1981 to 1983 as a Forage Agronomist on the island of Barbados. He is a graduate of Utah State University, where he studied Agronomy and International Agricultural Development with a focus in Agricultural Economics. Born in Mexico, Mr. Martin is fluent in conversational Spanish and has traveled widely in South America, Central America, Europe and the Near East.
Jeanine Abrams McLean is the vice president of Fair Count, an organization Fair Count dedicated to partnering with Hard to Count (HTC) communities to achieve a fair and accurate count of all people in Georgia and the nation in the 2020 Census, and to strengthening the pathways to greater civic participation. Jeanine is a highly skilled researcher with over 15 years of experience designing, managing, and implementing population-based studies and projects. During her tenure at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she applied her expertise in computational biology and population-based studies to help understand and control the spread of antibiotic resistance. Additionally, she has extensive project and personnel management experience, including her work in community organizing.
Hina Shamsi (@HinaShamsi) is the director of the ACLU National Security Project, which is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights. She has litigated cases upholding the freedoms of speech and association, and challenging targeted killing, torture, unlawful detention, and post-9/11 discrimination against racial and religious minorities.
Her work includes a focus on the intersection of national security and counterterrorism policies with international human rights and humanitarian law. She previously worked as a staff attorney in the ACLU National Security Project and was the acting director of Human Rights First’s Law & Security Program. She also served as senior advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions.
Hina appears regularly in the media and has been quoted as a national security expert by numerous outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Reuters, and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, NPR, ABC News, and the BBC. She is the author and coauthor of publications on targeted killing, torture, and extraordinary rendition, and has monitored and reported on the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay. She is also a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a course in international human rights. Hina is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Northwestern University School of Law.
Thomas M. Susman became the Director of the Governmental Affairs Office of the American Bar Association in May 2008. The Governmental Affairs Office serves as the focal point for the Association’s advocacy efforts before Congress, the Executive Branch, and other governmental entities on diverse issues of importance to the legal profession.
Prior to joining the ABA in 2008, he was a partner in the Washington Office of Ropes & Gray LLP for 27 years. There his work included counseling, litigation, and lobbying on a wide range of regulatory, antitrust, lobbying, ethics, and information law issues. He handled legislative matters on behalf of both large and small clients – businesses, trade associations, and nonprofit organizations – in a variety of industries. He was active in seeking enactment of legislation, in obtaining appropriations for specific projects, in blocking or amending legislative proposals, and in counseling targets of congressional investigations.
Before joining Ropes & Gray, Tom served on Capitol Hill for 12 years. He was Chief Counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure and General Counsel to the Antitrust Subcommittee and to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior to that, he served in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice after clerking for Judge John Minor Wisdom on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
He is a nationally recognized expert on lobbying, freedom of information, and administrative law. He co-edits the ABA’s Lobbying Manual; served as an adjunct professor on lobbying at The American University’s Washington College of Law; and for over two decades has chaired the Ethics Committee of the professional association for federal lobbyists. His most recent articles on the subject address lobbying reform, reciprocity, contingent fee lobbying, and the proper role of campaign contributions in lobbying. He has also written, taught, and lectured on transparency and access to government information; he received the American Library Association’s “Champion of Public Access” award and the Collaboration on Government Secrecy’s “Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend” award, is a member of the Freedom Forum’s FOI Hall of Fame. He is also Founding President of the D.C. Open Government Coalition and co-author of a portfolio on protecting and obtaining business information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Before joining the ABA, Tom had chaired its Administrative Law Section and served in the ABA’s House of Delegates and on its Board of Governors. He is a member of the American Law Institute, was Chairman of the National Judicial College Board, and was president of the District of Columbia Public Library Foundation. He is a graduate of Yale University and received his J.D. from the University of Texas Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Texas Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. In 2011 he was named Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Texas Law School.
Anne Weismann is a FOIA litigator who previously served as CREW’s Chief FOIA Counsel. Prior to rejoining CREW, Anne was Executive Director of Campaign for Accountability and before that served as CREW’s Chief Counsel. Her prior experience also includes over 21 years at the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. Anne received her J.D. from George Washington University and her B.A. from Brown University.
At Asian Americans Advancing Justice, John leads the organization’s efforts to fight for civil rights and empower Asian Americans to create a more just America for all through public policy advocacy, education, and litigation. John is a leader in the Asian American and Pacific Islander and broader civic community. In 1997, he co-founded the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the direct service legal needs of Asian Pacific Americans in the D.C. metropolitan area. He served as chair of the Asian American Justice Center (former name of AAJC) after serving as treasurer of the organization and as a member of its National Advisory Council. John was president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) from 2003 to 2004, and since 1998, he has served as Co-Chair of NAPABA’s Judiciary and Executive Nominations & Appointments Committee. In that capacity, he has worked extensively with the White House and the U.S. Senate in securing the nomination and confirmation of over 20 Asian American and Pacific Islander federal judges and numerous other Senate-confirmed Presidential appointments.